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review 2020-01-27 04:00
Frontier Dualities
An Uncommon Woman - Frantz, Laura

2020 is already shaping up to be a spectacular year for Christian fiction. There are so many exciting new releases scheduled for the months ahead, and those published in this first month of the year have set a high standard. It is such a joy to see favorite authors, as well as debuts, writing books that somehow surpass their previous titles while continuing to explore deep spiritual truths. Last year I read my first Laura Frantz novel, “A Bound Heart”, and was moved by the love and heartache in the story. Because I enjoy early American settings and particularly the Colonial period, I knew that I had to read “An Uncommon Woman.”

Laura Frantz has a unique way of telling a story, not relying on the archetypal pleasurable plotline. Fittingly, such is the case with “An Uncommon Woman.” The narrative maintains a somber tone, yet faith and relationships keep it from becoming lugubrious. While we often do read fiction to escape from the vagaries of life, it also helps us to feel less alone in our own struggles and can instruct us. Frantz does not romanticize life on the western Virginia frontier in 1770 but rather writes of it in its volatile actuality. The tensions between not only the settlers and the Native American tribes but also between the tribes themselves results in living “on the razor’s edge of peril.” For “[h]ere on the savage border, things changed in a heartbeat, a breath. Life was lived in the shadow of lasts.” I was surprised to learn about how vulnerable those living outside a city (“overmountain” in this book) were on a continual basis.  Truthfully, this is one of the reasons that I love this book so much; this unflinching approach gives me a renewed respect for the settlers and inspires me by their sheer tenacity.

 



Conflict with and between the Native Americans is a key element in this story, as is diversity. Colonel Clayton Tygart, kidnapped by Lenape Indians as a boy and a hero of the Seven Years’ War, is “the white Indian, a so-called redeemed savage brought back from the brink of heathenism in the nick of time.” As such, he straddles both worlds, which makes his character all the more intriguing, and the fact that he has heterochromia symbolically underscores his duality. Likewise, Keturah Braam inhabits this mediate position after living half of her life as a captive and must try to reconcile both identities. Two periphery characters who captured my interest are Jude and Maddie, former slaves, because they are respected by the central characters, which is a pleasant surprise given the time period. As for Tessa Swan, I expected her to be the titular character, but I think that it refers more to Keturah, although both are unconventional. Tessa is a fascinating heroine who is accustomed to but weary of life on the frontier because “[a]ll her life had been spent looking over her shoulder. Such unceasing, ingrained guardedness wore a body down.” Nevertheless, she never shirks her duty, and most importantly, she remains steadfast in her faith in God: “She wasn’t fancy, but she had the Bible to bolster her. She would be a woman of strength and honor, however humble.” When trials arise, this faith is the necessary element that sustains her, as it should be ours. As Joshua 1:9 affirms, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All opinions are my own.

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review 2019-01-06 09:59
A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz
A Bound Heart - Laura Frantz

Though Magnus MacLeish and Lark MacDougall grew up on the same castle grounds, Magnus is now laird of the great house and the Isle of Kerrera. Lark is but the keeper of his bees and the woman he is hoping will provide a tincture that might help his ailing wife conceive and bear him an heir. But when his wife dies suddenly, Magnus and Lark find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of accusations, expelled from their beloved island, and sold as indentured servants across the Atlantic. Yet even when all hope seems dashed against the rocky coastline of the Virginia colony, it may be that in this New World the two of them could make a new beginning--together. Laura Frantz's prose sparkles with authenticity and deep feeling as she digs into her own family history to share this breathless tale of love, exile, and courage in Colonial America.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

Magnus MacLeish and Lark MacDougall grew up together on the Isle of Kerrera, Scotland. Now it's the year of 1752 and Magnus is laird of Kerrera Castle while Lark is the castle beekeeper, herbalist and manager of the castle stillroom. When Magnus's young wife, Isla, suffers her 6th miscarriage, he goes to Lark requesting something that will not only bring his wife physical comfort while her body mends but also something to help her successfully bring a child to term. Lark certainly has elixirs for pain management, but getting a pregnancy to stick? That's trickier. She seeks counsel from her grandmother, who trained her in the ways of medicinal plants. Lark's grandmother vaguely remembers something that may work, but she's struggling to recall the full recipe. 

 

When Lark's cousin goes into labor (this is a baby-making lovin' place, people!) Lark rushes to assist. Upon her return to Kerrera Castle, she finds the place in an uproar. Castle staff tell a wild story about Lady Isla apparently going mad from something, running off, her body later discovered at the bottom of a cliff. To Lark's shock and horror, fingers point to her as the culprit, even though several voices come to her defense, noting that she wasn't even in the area when all this went down!

 

It's for naught though... she's the herbalist, and it's suspected that Isla's sudden burst of madness was due to an overdose... but Lark hadn't given her anything yet, so how can that be? At least, nothing that would cause that kind of reaction in a person. What really went down? Lark's guess: Isla, having previously showed signs of depression, turned suicidal. Her parents, not wanting to deal with any social stigma attached to suicide, looked to have a scapegoat to save face for the family name. Lark was the easiest target. 

 

After a short joke of a trial, Isla is found guilty of manslaughter. Rather than the death penalty, she is sold into indentured servitude in the American Colonies (Virginia, specifically) for the duration of 3 years. Placed on a womens' transport ship, she gets word that two Kerrera locals are on the mens' transport: Laird Magnus (charged with wearing a kilt, of all things) and Lark's pirate friend, Rory MacPherson (charged with smuggling goods).

 

Magnus uses his connections to pull some strings and have Lark moved to the mens' ship, so that she may serve as the ship's herbalist / botanist. Immediately, Lark's beauty grabs the attention of every man on board, though Rory finds himself unable to shake the sailor's superstition of women on a ship being bad luck. {Considering the events that later unfold, he may have been onto something!}

 

Magnus has his work cut out for him, protecting Lark from the ship's lust-filled men, the main one to watch being Surgeon Alick Blackburn. Magnus and Lark now both being convicted criminals -- guilty or not -- brings them back more on equal footing, as far as societal ranking goes. Lark's family name, MacDougall, was once one of great prestige but later fell out of favor and "time and misfortune turned them common". In recent years, Magnus's family line had taken hard hits as well -- father killed in battle, mother and sister dead from pox, Magnus's wife's struggles with pregnacy... and now she's gone... with Magnus headed to the New World, people may give an impressed nod to his former titled self, but it'll mean little else beyond that outside his homeland. Besides, Magnus hears rumors that he may be sent to a Jamaican estate to serve out his sentence, not Virginia with Lark. Can he manage to find a way to stay with her? If not, can he convince her to wait for his return?

 

Though I have a few other of Frantz's books on my TBR shelf, this is the first of hers I've now read. Inspired by the story of some of Frantz's own ancestors, A Bound Heart lacked a lot of heart IMO. It's not a bad story by any means, but all the 5 star ratings I'm already seeing for it (being offically released just a few days ago) strike me as awfully generous. Frantz has a solidly enjoyable writing style, the novel definitely shows the woman is dedicated to research! The novel is detail-rich, but almost to a fault, as the plot is very slow-going. 

 

Now typically I don't hate a slow-burn novel if a steady increase or layering in plot complications or character histories can be seen. I'm all about being invested in fictional worlds! Unfortunately, this one fell a tad short for me in that department and I found myself not only not attached to the characters but I think at one point I believe I literally fell asleep mid-read. There are little bursts of action here and there but they are SUPER brief. The rest of the story seems to be just general conversing, lots and lots of conversations going down while characters (and readers) wait for their lives to turn eventful. That said, I will say the pace of things noticeably picks up once our primary characters board the transport ships. 

 

The romances -- or the suggestion of pairings, anyway -- tickled me about as much as flat soda. The only character that really struck my interest was Lark's smuggler friend, Captain Rory. He appeared pretty personable in the beginning of the novel, but boy, did he end up showing his true colors towards the end! Trevor grew on me a bit, but he seemed like the type who'd want to pin down Lark's strong, independent nature. As far as Magnus and Lark, there's a sweet friendship there to be admired but the reader isn't really given enough of a backstory between them to really feel much for them beyond that. 

 

The glossary for Scottish terminology provided at the beginning of the book was helpful. While I was already familiar with some of the terms, there were a few in there that I'd never heard used before. Also a nice touch, the quotes from famous poets, novelists and philosophers that Frantz uses to foreshadow each chapter's events. She found some particularly great quotes to reference! 

 

FTC Disclaimer: Revell Books kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.

 

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-09-06 13:42
The Lacemaker
The Lacemaker - Laura Frantz

My reviews are honest & they contain spoilers. For more, follow me:


The Lacemaker is the latest historical romance release by Laura Frantz. I first discovered her work in 2015, rather suddenly, while I was browsing through goodreads. The title of that particular book really intrigued me so I had to give the story a try. I enjoyed it so much that I had to check out her backlist. Fast forward 3 yrs. and 4 books later, I could say that I’m a fan of Ms. Frantz and wait eagerly for her next release.

The Lacemaker is set in the colonial America, around 1775. Our h, Lady Elisabeth Lawson, daughter of Lord Stirling, is one of the most sought after brides of Williamsburg where the Loyalists are the majority. Her father is one of them and holds quite a bit of power. Lord Stirling isn’t, what you’d call, a ‘devoted papa’. He’s more of an autocrat who wants everyone to bow down to him, and that includes his own family. And he’s ruthless enough to do ANYTHING to keep his power and the Loyalist hold intact in this side of America. Stirling’s greatest disappointment was to never having a son to carry on his illustrious(?) legacy. On top of that, his French descent wife has never been fond of him, supporting the Rebels who are even now trying to upend the Loyalists and declare the independence of America! How funny!! He knows that’ll never come to pass if he, and his friend, a fellow Loyalist and the Governor, Lord Dunmore have anything to say about it. In fact he’s been trying his best to do whatever it’s needed to make a stronghold of lands, money and power to defend their territory. One of them was to marry his only daughter, the beautiful Elisabeth to another loyalist with money and the lands.

Elisabeth, being the only child, had been brought up (or I’d rather say ‘trained’?) to be meek and biddable knowing anything else will only earn her the wrath of her sire. She’s not only a beauty with blonde hair and blue eyes, she’s also as accomplish as a lady in her standing should be, the best being those dainty yet stunning lacemaking that her dearest mama had taught her. Though Elisabeth loved her mom, she had no real love for her father. Only that odd sort of loyalty you feel for your family despite knowing he’s an a$$hole, just because of that; he’s your father. That doesn’t mean she never wanted her father’s love, but she knew it’s never forthcoming from a blindly ambitious, ruthless and utterly selfish man like him. One who had made certain everyone knew that her mother was mentally unstable and moved her away to Bath so she can’t cause any trouble during Elisabeth’s very upcoming marriage to one Miles Roth. And whatever else he was cooking with his Loyalist buddies.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-06-19 00:21
A Moonbow Night
A Moonbow Night - Laura Frantz

My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...

First of all, let me start by saying I didn’t know what a moonbow was until I read this story and went to check it out online. I never saw a moonbow but now I seriously want to! There were many such references in A Moonbow Night by Laura Frantz which I absolutely loved. I mean WOW!

A Moonbow Night is my third Laura Frantz book, and boy this was one explosive novel! It’s a clean, slightly Christian themed historical romance and her latest release. Previously I’ve read The Mistress of Tall Acre and The Colonel’s Lady; I loved the first, was very frustrated with the other but I knew I’d like to try another of her book soon. This one definitely takes the cake! It wasn’t just the writing and the historical research (loved how she integrated the Daniel Boone and family as a part of the storyline) - Ms. Frantz excels in both gracefully - but also the story itself. So many things were happening; sometimes warm and fuzzy that’ll put a smile on your face, while other times something really, really heart-wrenching! It says a lot when it took me about the first 40% of the book to get into the story cause I found all the references made quite confusing.

Sion Morgan, a Welsh descendant surveyor, was on a mission to survey the areas around the Shawnee Rivers (pardon my geography; I don’t live in the US). He had to check out this backwaters, where the lands are equally full of temptation and danger, for the approaching settlers. Sion knew it would be one of the most dangerous jobs out there, with the Indians on the hunt for human scalp, but he was very dedicated. He had a small group of men helping him, which included an elderly man called Nate, their mapmaker, and not so helpful, Cornelius Lyon and Cornelius’s manservant Aidan. Two chain bearers as well.

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review 2015-11-01 04:23
Review: The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz
The Mistress of Tall Acre: A Novel - Laura Frantz

After 8 years of war against the British, Miss Sophie Menzies is alone on the now ramshackle Three Chimneys estate except for her housekeeper and (unpaid) hired man.  Shunned by the village for her father's political views, she is facing continued hardship and the threat of trouble.  In stark contrast, her neighbor has returned from the war, widowed and a war hero, to the thriving Tall Acre estate.  General Seamus Ogilvy's greatest post-war challenges seem to be relating to his young daughter, Lily Cate, and keeping her mother's relative from claiming her.  To protect Lily Cate from being legally awarded to her aunt and uncle, Seamus proposes a marriage of convenience to Sophie.  Sophie accepts and soon becomes the mistress of Tall Acres and the adored mama of Lily Cate.  But the growing closeness of their new family is put to the test as unforeseen complications abound.

 

With a blend of intrigue, drama, faith and romance, Laura Frantz has delivered a story rich with the social, political and moral character of a fledgling post-colonial America.  And she's built it on a foundation of wonderful characters, from the strong hero and dedicated heroine to the faithful staff of Tall Acres, with a memorable cameo by General George Washington.  

 

Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction, romance, and the post-revolutionary era.  My full review can be read on my WordPress blog at http://wp.me/p5Tcfi-5Y.  I will definitely be reading more Laura Frantz books.

 

This review refers to a review ebook I read for free, courtesy of the publisher through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

 

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